GARDENS OF PALM BEACH, FLORIDA — It was the perfect way to end Daniel Berger’s day.
The Jupiter resident got off to a great start on Sunday, leading the field by five strokes after 54 holes, the greatest 54-hole lead in Honda Classic Tournament history.
It all came to a halt when his 3-wood from 259 yards on No. 18 dropped in the water short and right of the pin, thereby ruining any chance of a miraculous finish.
Berger bogeyed No. 18 on his way to a 4-over 74, his lowest total in 25 rounds in his home tournament. This comes after a string of 65s to start the competition. He finished fourth, giving up eight shots to champion Sepp Straka on the day.
Berger’s five-shot advantage vanished in just five holes. Berger was in second place after six holes for the first time since he took the lead on the ninth hole on Friday.
He never took the initiative again.
“It was just a bad round,” Berger said after congratulating Straka, who won his first PGA Tour championship with a birdie on No. 18, sealing a 66 on the day and a 10-under 270 total.
“It may happen at any time,” says the narrator. I’m not going to get too worked up about it.”
Everyone, especially on a track as difficult as the Champion Course, will face heartbreak. Berger isn’t the first player to blow a lead, and it won’t be the last. It wasn’t the first, to be sure. After 54 holes, he is 1-of-4 in holding the lead.
Even golf’s greatest player, Jack Nicklaus, who visited the course on Sunday, admitted that starting the final round so far ahead of the pack is challenging.
The Golden Bear stated that he disliked being pursued.
“Having a five-shot lead may be difficult at times,” Nicklaus stated on the NBC broadcast. “I’ve never been a huge fan of big leads. I was generally able to get through it.”
Jack is his name. Berger is not a member of the group (neither is anyone else who has played in a PGA Tour event in the last year). But the world’s 21st-ranked golfer, who has four PGA Tour victories, did not attribute his poor start – or daylong troubles – to the pressure of leading.
He stated, “I felt fine today.” “To be honest, I warmed up quickly and felt excellent. I simply didn’t make enough, or any, putts, and you can’t shoot a good number if you don’t make putts. That is exactly what occurred today.”
Berger’s touch on the greens went away at the worst possible time. In each of the first three rounds, he was no lower than 27th in strokes gained putting.
He was 73rd on Sunday. Last but not least.
He admitted, “I don’t think I made a single putt today.” “I’m not sure what happened.” I just didn’t feel like putting today.”
Berger didn’t make a putt further than 3 feet until No. 17, when he made a par-saving 7-footer.
Berger was in charge of the putting. The weather, not Berger or Shane Lowry, was the golfing gods watching out for Straka.
Berger bemoaned the rain that turned into a flood at the worst possible time. Berger and Lowry, the Jupiter resident who caught Berger early and then held at least a share of the lead until the final hole, stood under umbrellas on the 18th tee box, joking but clearly concerned.
Straka had hit the ball 334 yards after teeing off in much lesser rain. He made a tournament-clinching birdie out of that.
Berger’s tee shot landed 273 yards from the hole amid a downpour. He had to rip it since he needed an eagle on the par-5 hole, and he watched as the ball and the tournament were lost in the water.
“It was really sad that we had rain at the end,” Berger added. “We would have hit our drives where (Straka) hit his, and we would have had a 3- or 4-iron in.”
“However, that’s how golf works.” “The good breaks don’t always come your way.”
Berger is all too familiar with the Champion Course’s lack of breaks. Padraig Harrington rolled in a 15-foot birdie putt on the final hole in regulation to catch Berger on his first effort at Honda, his first year in 2015, and won on the second playoff round, when Berger put his tee ball on No. 17 in the water.
Berger added, “Today was a good learning experience.” “I was ready to play well today, but I just didn’t hit the shots I needed to shoot.” That’s how golf works.”